Volvo challenge family reduce emissions by 80%

June 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

A neat companion story to the MINI E trial: Volvo’s ‘One Tonne Life’ challenge ended this week, and its guinea-pig family, the Lindells of Hässelby, near Stockholm, report that in six months, they reduced their carbon dioxide emissions by 80%. The average Swedish family is responsible for 7.3tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, and the Lindells were challenged to get down to just one tonne. They finished short of the target, recording 1.5 tonnes over the test period, but conclusively proved that the Swedish government’s aim to achieve a nationwide average of a 40% emissions improvement by 2020 is realistic.

The Lindell family – father Nils, mother Alicja and children Hannah and Jonathan – used an ‘energy watch’ motoring system developed by energy supplier Vattenfall, a partner in the project. They swapped their usual ten year-old car for a Volvo C30 Electric, and their 1970s villa for a brand-new energy-optimised wooden house made by A-hus, and used new, efficient household appliances supplied by ICA and Siemens.

Unsurprisingly, their biggest improvement was in their housing and transport carbon costs (reduced by over 90%) – the C30 was charged using hydropower electricity. The well-insulated house, with its own solar system and bought-in hydropower electricity, emitted ‘almost zero’ carbon dioxide. The family were also measured on daily waste-reduction and the carbon-intensity of their choices: they threw away less food, ate more vegetables, and, towards the end of the trial in a bid to meet their targets, turned vegetarian and swapped dairy produce for lower-carbon soya- and oat-based alternatives. And in a final-ditch attempt to get down to that one tonne rate, they even gave up watching TV, and moved into one room for the last week – though ultimately, they couldn’t outweigh the carbon costs of the manufacture of their house, the car, their appliances and the other new items involved.

“On our way down to 2.5 tonnes we didn’t have to make any major compromises in our everyday lifestyles. After that, however, things got tougher. Living at the 1.5 tonne level was an extreme experience for us,” says Alicja Lindell. “During that final sprint we avoided most of the food we usually eat. In addition there was no TV, no shopping and no going out to cafés or restaurants. But  it still isn’t possible to get all the way down to one tonne,” added her husband Nils. “We were not able to influence emissions from the production. But we have been able to demonstrate that with the right know-how and motivation, it’s possible to get quite close to one tonne. Not only that, it’s been very enjoyable and a really educational adventure”.

The family documented their six months – with video – at onetonnelife.com (with English translation).

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